Nickel Allergy

Nickel allergy is a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to metal which contains and releases nickel.

Like other allergies, nickel allergy is acquired. Nickel allergy may develop at any age. Once you become allergic to nickel, you’re likely to have the allergy for many years. Ear piercing sometimes initiates nickel allergy. Nickel allergy is especially common in children who wear blue jeans with metal snaps or jewelry.

The cause of nickel allergy is unknown, but sensitivity to nickel may, in part, be inherited (genetic).

It is most often a reaction to jewelry, but may also occur by contact with things like bra hooks, zippers, or the metal in eyeglass frames. Most jewelry contains nickel; however, there is less nickel in 14- or 18-karat gold jewelry than in inexpensive costume jewelry. There are companies that sell nickel-free jewelry and test kits to determine nickel levels.

Some people are highly allergic to nickel and may get a rash from even brief contact with nickel-containing metals, while others break out only after a long period of skin contact with nickel.

The features of contact dermatitis usually appear only where your skin came into contact with nickel, but they may appear elsewhere on your body. Nickel allergy symptoms include:

  • Rash or bumps on the skin
  • Itching, which may be severe
  • Redness or changes in skin color
  • Dry patches of skin that may resemble a burn
  • Blisters and draining fluid in severe cases

Sweating at the point of contact with nickel may worsen the symptoms.

Nickel-allergy rashes usually clear up once contact with nickel-containing metal is stopped and a topical corticosteroid is applied to the rash.

Preventing nickel-contact rashes means avoiding skin contact with all nickel-containing metals.